The news that the Obama administration today will inform Poland and the Czech Republic that it’s backing out of a deal to build a missile-defense shield based in their countries isn’t all that surprising. But it does matter.
There is a sense in the West that post-Soviet Russia can be cajoled into being a constructive partner if we just respect its sensibilities. That sense dissipates the closer you get to the Russian border — i.e., among those countries that lived under Moscow’s thumb for the better part of the 20th century. They don’t trust the Russia of Vladimir Putin, because the Russia of Vladimir Putin continues to treat its old dominion as its current dominion. Putin’s Russia cuts off natural-gas supplies to Europe in the dead of winter on an almost annual basis. Putin’s Russia launches cyber attacks against other countries, including the U.S. Putin’s Russia interferes in the elections of its neighbors — or just goes ahead and invades them, as in the case of Georgia last